Proposed expansion of Nigeria's Midwives Service Scheme is to create at least 19,000 health-related jobs and save some 3 million lives from maternal and child death over the next four years.
The expansion, tagged MSS-Plus, will stretch to include 500 extra health facilities in addition to the 1,000 already on the MSS, said minister of state for health Dr Muhammad Pate.
He said SURE-P will provide billions of naira in additional funding-accrued from subsidy removed from petrol pump price this January-"that will save the lives of millions of mothers and children in Nigeria, thereby improving the current low human development indices of maternal and child morbidity and mortality."
MSS-Plus will seek nationwide deployment of 2,000 more midwives, 2,000 extra community health officers, 6,000 community association workers and 9,000 village health workers, said Dr Ado Muhammad, executive director of NPHCDA, which runs the existing MSS.
Muhammad said the massive deployment would "not only save women from dying during childbirth but also improve child survival."
The target of the expansion is to reach at least 3 million women.
Widening access: The expanded scheme promises more human resources and material for better health
Paid for health
Maternal and child health project is one of four social security net programmes embedded in the SURE programme, created purposely to cushion the effects of removing fuel subsidy in January.
Its focus on maternal and child health is to reduce mortality ratios related to women and children under five.
Nigeria still has some of the highest numbers of women dying from childbirth and children dying before the age of five.
A major setback in existing MSS was getting women to visit health facilities, but the MSS-Plus hopes to create demand for health services by offering cash incentives for women who do.
It will pay up N5,000 in instalments to women who register for antenatal care, visit health facilities up to four times for antenatal services, and deliver their babies in health facilities or use skilled birth attendants.
The "cash-transfer concept", as it is called, borrows from similar programmes in South America, which offer cash rewards for families ensuring their children attend school or get proper nutrition.
It is being piloted at a primary health centre in Kuje to help answer up to 80% of questions likely to surround the programme before it is rolled out nationwide, said Dr Ugo Okoli, project coordinator for SURE-P's maternal and child health project.
Stakeholders are still finishing up work plan for the programme before it is launched later this year.
Okoli, has said the MSS-Plus will also seek to better ward development committees and other non-traditional partners in basic health care "to build partnership with bottom stakeholders."
Without it, she said, there would always be a gap in the Midwives Service Scheme.